Nairobi, Kenya – At a time when access to information is paramount, especially given the needs of Kenya’s budding decentralized government, a new SMS platform is allowing newly-formed county assemblies to connect with citizens and get their views and input on issues impacting communities across the country.
Working with the County Assemblies Forum (CAF) of Kenya and the country’s 47 new county governments, IRI launched a new SMS platform that enables CAF to communicate with its more than 2,000 members, who serve on county assemblies throughout Kenya and allows individual county assemblies to gather citizen input on local issues before the assembly.
The platform will not only serve as a two way communication tool but as a dynamics tool to collect members’ views on diverse issues.
Using the platform, CAF is able to send out messages to its members, conduct member surveys on recommendations or reservations on pressing issues surrounding counties and analyze feedback to attain critical data that can be used to inform decisions. For example, this capability creates a network to share best practices in legislative development between the many members of the county assemblies to tackle common service delivery issues across the country.
“The platform will not only serve as a two way communication tool but as a dynamics tool to collect members’ views on diverse issues,” said Honorable Nuh Nassir, chairman of CAF. “The platform also allows for analysis of the data collected.”
At the county level, assemblies are using the platform to solicit citizen input on legislation and other policy issues before the assembly. In Kilifi County, the platform was used to gather citizen input on legislation impacting the coconut industry, a critical jobs creator in the area. In very rural and conservative parts of the country, where women may not be able or feel comfortable attending assembly meetings, the platform is enabling women to have a greater say, in real time, on issues before the county assembly.
Eventually, the platform will provide CAF with the ability to directly disseminate important news and developments affecting county assemblies, and those they represent across Kenya. The tool will not only serve as a communication instrument but also as a monitoring and evaluation device to measure the progress of devolution for the people of Kenya.
IRI’s work in Kenya and this project are funded by the National Endowment for Democracy and the United States Agency for International Development.